- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 31, 2015

A massive space rock resembling the face of a skull will zip past Earth on Halloween, NASA said Saturday.

NASA officials originally thought the object was an asteroid when they spotted it in early October, but after getting a closer look astronomers saw that the object was actually a dead comet, with an eerie skull-like appearance.

Using the U.S. space agency’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, experts “have determined that the celestial object is more than likely a dead comet that has shed its volatiles after numerous passes around the sun,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement late Friday.

Astronomers discovered the skull-like resemblance on the face of the rock based on radar data from the National Science Foundation’s 305-meter (1,000-foot) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

“In the Arecibo images, it appears to have donned a skull costume for its Halloween flyby,” said Kelly Fast, IRTF program scientist at NASA and acting program manager for the US space agency’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program, The Agence France Presse reported.

The space rock is traveling at an alarmingly high speed for such a large object. It’s about as large as a football stadium at 2,000 feet (600 meters) in diameter.

But there is no danger of it hitting Earth.  Astronomers said it was expected to zip by Saturday at 1 p.m. at a distance of 302,000 miles.

That’s about 1.3 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.


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